Thursday, December 31, 2009

holiday cookie swap

I know you all know how I have some pretty nice coworkers. I managed to get a small group of them to do a holiday cookie swap at the office, thanks to the help of one of my coworkers, Chris, who shared the idea. It was my very first cookie swap and it was so much fun to see what people came up with.

There were eight of us total and I think everyone came up with really neat treats. Funny how none of us did something easy like chocolate chip cookies.

Chris's fudge

Karoline's ginger cookies

Jeff's coconut macaroons

Tom's molasses cookies

Nathan's rum balls

Antoinette's snickerdoodle cookies

Anne's walnut ball cookies

Everything was delicious! And I love the creative packaging that people came up with. I ended up making those pretzel Rolo pecan treats which, I know wasn't technically a "cookie" per se.

I think the neatest thing that came out of the cookie swap was getting to know some of my coworkers a little better and that we share a passion for baking. One of them commented about how he doesn't like to bake/make things unless he has a purpose so it got me to thinking about doing some sort of monthly cookie swap. Like maybe every third Wednesday a month, if you wanted to participate, you'd bring in 2 dozen cookies/treats to the swap. Then depending on how many people showed up, we'd divi up the goodies for everyone to share and enjoy. After I presented the idea to this coworker, he added the idea where participants could not repeat any cookie/treat that was brought before therefore adding a challenge to be creative and try new [different] recipes. I'll have to see if I can make this happen. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

pretzel rolo pecan treats

Holy crappers, where did the year go?? To make up for my lack of posting I thought I'd share this recipe for a super easy peasy pretzel Rolo pecan treat that I learned from my husband's aunt Elaine last weekend. Super easy peasy! And super yummy according to my at-home-taste-tester and obliging coworkers. :)


- a bag of Snyder's butter snap pretzels
- a bag of Rolo candies
- whole, shelled pecans


- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place a piece of foil or parchment paper onto a baking sheet.
- Lay whole pieces of pretzels onto the sheet in one layer.
- Unpeel some Rolos (seriously, this is the hardest part!)
- Refrain from eating a lot of the Rolos. One or two, yes. Handful, no.
- Put one Rolo on top of each pretzel.
- Put one whole pecan piece on top of the Rolo.
- Bake in the oven for 3 minutes (no, not the most efficient use of a 350 degree oven, I know ...)
- Remove from the oven and smoosh each pecan down so that the Rolo gets flattened.
- Let them cool down and then put them in the fridge to harden.
- Enjoy!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

harvard square's oktoberfest

In the trend of late blog posts ... and now in the practice of putting things out of sequential order of when they actually happened it appears ...

We decided to check out the Oktoberfest in Harvard Square a couple of Saturdays ago. Again, another thing we had never done in the 10+ years of living here [sigh]. It was a little too crowded for our tastes so we didn't stick around for too long, but long enough for me to be intrigued by some food related items (of course!). I was mostly curious about watching these two women fry up a serious load of potstickers.

Wow, that's a lotta potstickers! And then we were walking along Church Street and I saw this caramel apple station, which I thought was clever. Messy but clever.

There was all sorts of music and live entertainment going on, beer gardens, people in crazy costumes, a huge variety of ethnic restaurants selling food, and lots and lots of people. Including this man on stilts.
We didn't get any beer but Tony got some delicious Indian food from one of the local restaurants (I was so jealous). Definitely worth checking out if you're a beer fanatic and aren't afraid of people dressed up in strange costumes rubbing up against you in the middle of a street.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

verrill farm in concord, ma

This is what happens when I get behind in blogging: we go somewhere or do something and it takes me over a week to write about it. In this particular case, I had convinced my husband to make a stop at Verrill Farm in Concord after we made a trip out to the DeCordova Museum since we had Columbus Day off. In the ten years I've lived in Massachusetts - and despite the number of times we've driven near it going back and forth to Clinton - we have never actually stopped in to check out the farm. They had rebuilt the entire place after a fire destroyed the farm last year, so since we were in the area we stopped by to see what it was like inside.

The store and bakery is cute and reminds me a little of Russo's in Watertown, although it's not nearly as big. There's a whole range of fresh produce - most of it homegrown - including tomatoes, winter squash, kale, herbs, cucumbers, kohlrabi, and more.

I managed to find a nice little pumpkin to carve into. (Note to self: try not to look so irritated whenever your husband takes photographs of you.)

I had already done the grocery shopping for the next few days (meaning, I didn't know we were going to the farm) so I didn't really "need" anything there, but I couldn't resist their homegrown brussel sprouts. And as I started to select some, a nice man came by with a load of freshly picked stock to replenish the stash.

They have a bakery and a deli (and they do catering too), so we were enticed by the aromas of fresh pastries. I saw these and thought that it would be a good combination for scones.

They had tons of squash and pumpkins and mums outside the store. Some were a little odd looking, like these large greenish ones.

So what do you do with so much fresh produce in the fall? Roast 'em! For dinner that night, I made us pork chops and topped them with some sauteed onions. And on the side we had roasted brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and potatoes.

Is it weird that one of my most favorite smells is the smell of sauteeing onions?? I love how the smell fills the kitchen every time I make them. They're so deliciously easy to do: take one large onion (usually go for the sweeter kinds, especially Vidalias when they are in season), cut it in half, then cut into thin strips. Melt 1/2 a stick of butter (I know, I didn't say it was non/low fat!) in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes before stirring. Then stir every few minutes as needed. It should start to turn brown in color and smell good. You can turn the heat down to low and just stir once in a while until they are nicely limp and very caramelly brown in color. Serve and enjoy.

I find roasting vegetables, especially a huge tray of them like this, is the easiest and simplest way to enjoy them. Cut the vegetables into equal sized pieces, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and black pepper, then stick it in a 425 degree oven for 40-50 minutes (depending on how large the pieces are). You may want to stir or flip them half way through the process but it's generally a no-brainer way of cooking them.

I have to say, we dined like kings that night. The pork chops were so nice and thick and I luckily didn't overcook them.

I started out by rubbing them with a little bit of olive oil and then seasoning them with sea salt, black pepper, dried basil, and dried oregano on both sides. Place them into a nonstick pan heated on medium heat. Let them cook for about 4 minutes on each side (just to brown them), then put a piece of foil on top of the entire pan and transfer it to a 450 degree oven. (Make sure that your pan doesn't have any plastic parts.) I kept them in the oven for about 12 mintues since they were on the thicker side (our internal thermometer that could go inside the oven broke unfortunately). Remove from the oven and keep the foil on as you let them rest for about 8-10 minutes. This is a good time to plate everything else up and get the vino pouring.

Serve to a hungry husband and smile as it disappears. :)

what has two thumbs ...

... and is allergic to beets?


[Insert Debbie Downer face and soundclip here.]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

wine wednesday at rialto restaurant

One neat thing about Twitter is finding out about things going on at local restaurants such as Rialto Restaurant's Wine Wednesday event. My husband and I originally had plans to meet with a couple of friends for dinner at Cambridge 1, but since that fell through I suggested that we check out this event. And we're both so glad we went!

Wine Wednesday takes place every Wednesday from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Their wine director, Brad Nugent, hosts an informal wine tasting where he selects a white and red from Rialto's wine list to share a taste of. Last night, we tried the Riesling (Trimbach, Clos St. Hune 1997) and the Amarone della Valpolicella (Tommaso Bussola 2004). Both were excellent wines. Tony preferred the red over the white because the Riesling was quite dry and he prefers sweeter varietals. And I preferred the Riesling because it had a nice finish. In either case, we were shocked to learn (after inquiring about being able to order either by the glass on a future dining excursion) that they around roughly $150 and $175 per bottle (respectively). Yowzers! So in that sense, it was a real treat to be able to try both of them for free during the tasting!

After we finished our tastings, Tony had a glass of the Barbera and I had a glass of the Nebbiolo (Vietti, Perbacco, Langhe 2006). His was a lot more buttery than mine but both were delicious (I had never tried a Nebbiolo before), and they both went quite well with our appetizers.

Rialto has a great bar menu where one can order antipasti dishes at $4 per plate, or three plates for $10. We thoroughly enjoyed the local mozzarella which was served with yummy braised tomatoes (yes friends, don't worry, the husband ate those and kept them far away from me!); the roasted winter squash which was served with a deliciously tart pomegranate sauce; and the fried olives which were stuffed with salami and parmesan. (P.S. I think we could've eaten a hundred more of the stuffed olives! So yummy!)

I think next time I'll try the potato croquettes, the smoked salmon, and definitely the duck liver pate dishes. Mmmmm ... just thinking about all this is making me hungry!

So if you're ever in the Cambridge (Harvard Square) area on a Wednesday evening and enjoy wine, definitely check out Rialto Restaurant's Wine Wednesday and give Brad a visit! Be sure to tell them that Candice sent you. :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

spreading some blog love

Thank you, Jen of Tiny Urban Kitchen, for awarding Candice Cooks the "One Lovely Blog" Award. This is the first blog award I have ever received! Thank you for your kind words and the recognition!

This is what Jen wrote: "Candice from Candice Cooks is a Boston local, just like me! I love reading her impressions of the local Boston food scene, especially all her photos of the farmers markets that she visits. Her posts are funny, warm, and personal. I love the little stories that she interweaves into her food posts."

In the spirit of spreading the blog love, I've listed a couple of blogs I enjoy reading. Here are the rules for the "One Lovely Blog" award:

  • Link to the person from whom you’ve received the award.

  • Nominate blogs you really like, preferably ones you have recently discovered

  • Leave a message on the nominees’ blogs telling them of their award!

So are you ready for them? Here are some food-related blogs I look forward to reading on a regular basis:

Extracurricular Laboratory Notebook
One of the reasons I like to read Stephanie's blog is because she signed up for a CSA and I love to see what she creates from the fresh produce she receives each week. I like how she isn't afraid to try new recipes and experiment with ingredients.

Tiny Urban Kitchen
I stumbled upon Jen's blog after discovering one of her posts on Foodbuzz a little while ago. Then I secretly started stalking her on Twitter once I learned that she's in the Boston area too. She creates some of the coolest dishes (with such a creative twist) and her excellent photography skills make me drool on the keyboard. I also really appreciate her attention to detail when it comes to describing food, ingredients, and dishes.

In the Hands of a Chef
This is Chef Jody Adams' blog. She is a James Beard award-winning chef/owner who celebrates regional Italian cuisine interpreted with New England ingredients at her landmark restaurant in Harvard Square, Rialto. I am enjoying her blog these days because she and a few of her staff are on an awesome trip through Europe discovering different cuisines and regions. I've eaten at Rialto and it's such a wonderful restaurant so it makes reading about her travels that much more intriguing to me.

Anna the Red's Bento Factory
I came across this blog recently after someone posted a link to her "Where the Wild Things Are" food creation. I can't believe how detailed and precise her creations are - talk about having a lot of patience! I love how she breaks down the process of how she forms different things. It makes you look at food in a different way.

Enjoy perusing these blogs as much as I do! Thanks again for the award, Jen! :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

if I won the lottery ...

At $25,000 a pop, I think not actually. LOL

Friday, October 2, 2009

orange + anise = goodness

It's funny because until recently I was never a big fan of anise. I can't even really eat a pizzelle although my father-in-law makes them by hand from scratch, how sad is that? But a little while ago, my friend and coworker, Laura, made these amazingly delicious orange and anise biscotti and gave me some. I swear, it has convinced me that anise really isn't that bad. I mean, I still don't love it but when she makes these biscottis then I seem to forget that I disliked it to begin with.

So you can only imagine the big smile on my face when I walked into work yesterday morning to find a pretty little package on my desk. I could just tell by the ribbon that it was tied with that it was from Laura, so I knew it contained some sort of deliciously baked treat (did I mention that she used to be a pastry chef?!).

Yummmmm ... these are sooooo gooooood. I was out of yogurt so I was hungry enough to make myself a cup of coffee and dunked a biscotti in it. Delightful!

I saved an extra one for myself to devour tomorrow morning and brought two home for the husband.

I must say, I do have some really sweet coworkers. So nice to find {delicious} surprises like this! Thank you, Laura! :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

a little kick*ss competition

One of my favorite cupcake shops is based here in Somerville, aren't we lucky?? Kickass Cupcakes in Davis Square is holding a month long contest for a new cupcake idea to list on their menu. The winner will get a year of cupcakes - holy icing, Batman! You can enter as many times as you'd like (read: you can confess the multitude of fantasy cupcake concoctions you possess) so let the creativity begin!

So my question is: What kind of a cupcake would you like to see a bakery make?

Here are the things that you need to supply with each of your entries (I'm using an example that someone already submitted):

Name: Winter Solstice
Cake: Dark Chocolate Cake
Frosting: Peppermint Buttercream
Garnish: Mini Candy Canes
Other: None

To enter the contest you can either drop it off or send it directly to them at the bakery, or via their Facebook discussion.

Good luck! Can't wait to see what kind of combinations you all come up with!!

Kickass Cupcakes
378 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA 02144

P.S. If you ever get the chance to stop by there, try the Mojito cupcake (pictured as a mini-cupcake above)! It's a rum-soaked cupcake topped with a lime frosting. Yum-o!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

anne's nibbly cookies recipe

I was craving bread from the Danish Pastry House yesterday (see what too many trips to the farmers market will do to ya?!), and luckily my parking angel was with me and I got a metered spot nearby. So after I bought a loaf of their Epine baguette (so yummy!) I walked by the Taza Chocolate booth to see their new chococycle. It's really cool! I decided to pick up a large bag (6 ounces) of their organic chocolate covered nibs to make something.

(I will refrain from saying what the husband said these look like.)

I didn't have any plan in mind so I was happy to find this recipe on the back of the package when I got home. They turned out great! Well, I should say that my husband didn't really love them like he loves regular chocolate chip cookies that I make but everyone at work who tried them loved them! They were super easy to make and they came out so soft. The only thing I didn't do in the recipe was add the nutmeg and that was simply because I didn't have any on hand.

I love using ice cream scoopers for cookie dough. These only took 10 minutes in the oven because they were small and bite-sized.

It was definitely a good idea to use the parchment paper on top of the pan because it made clean up a breeze!

So my friends, if you'd like the recipe you should go out and get a bag of these lovely little nibs!

Oh and by the way, speaking of yummy baked goods. Check out this cardamom cake that my coworker, Stephanie, made (yes, the same one with the amazing basil garden). Our departments hosted today's coffee hour this morning which is why I brought the cookies in to work. I really like the green plate that she brought it on, and the cake was as delicious as it was beautiful!

Happy baking everyone! :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

nebo in boston, ma

This post/review is long overdue! Stephanie and I went to see the Killers at the TD Banknorth Garden the Friday of Labor Day weekend (read all about it here). Since the concert wasn't going to start until 7:30 pm (which is typically still inaccurate, it tends to be 30+ minutes later than that even), we met up beforehand and had dinner at Nebo in the North End in Boston. Neither of us had been there before so it made the experience of trying some place new even more fun.

It's in a kind of weird location (N. Washington Street) because it's right on the edge or out-skirts of what most people know as the North End. What's great is that it really is only about 252 steps away from the Garden (I'm still so used to calling it the Fleet Center) as they boast on their website. If you take the green line T to get there and exit at North Station, you'll see a large painted sign on the back of the restaurant's building, so you can't miss it.

We got there a little after 5:30 pm and it was quite empty (Friday before a holiday weekend ... maybe everyone had left by then?). I wanted to take pictures of the decor and set up inside but there were so many wait staff just standing around so I felt awkward whipping out the camera. It is much larger inside than it seems from the outside as it goes far back into the building. There's a nice bar where people started to congregrate as they trickled in.

We started with their arancini appetizer ($10) which were three porcini mushroom and mozzarella stuffed rice balls. They normally drizzle the chestnut honey over top of them but we asked for it on the side instead. I liked the presentation in the white dishes, and they were delicious! It's funny because as much as Stephanie and I both love to cook, we pondered over why neither of us had ever tried frying risotto balls like this. I think it is probably a lot more difficult than we think (they come out so smooth) so I'll just leave it to the pros and look forward to enjoying them as we dine out. :)

We also shared an order of their bruschetta aglio e olio ($2) which translates to homemade grilled bread with garlic and extra virgin olive oil (evoo). It was very tasty but a tad too crunchy for my tastes. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating my share.

And then we split a pizza con patate ($16) which was made with pancetta, golden potato, gorgonzola, rosemary, evoo, and mozarella. I like how it was a thin crust pizza and how the pancetta gave it a nice salty flavor. Part of why I wanted to try that particular pizza (they have over 20 different kinds to choose from, not to mention the ability to create your own!) was to see how it compared to the potato pizza at Cambridge 1. I have to say that I still favor the one at Cambridge 1, although the pancetta and gorgonzola on this one does make it quite different. It was a good pizza but I think next time I'd like to try the scampi pizza ($17) with shrimp, garlic, parsley, evoo, pecorino romano, and mozzarella.

It's a nice alternative to fighting the tourist crowd in the North End, and especially ideal if you're going to attend a concert or game later that night. I really can't think of other nice, classy restaurants in that particular area (like on Canal Street, etc.) that aren't basically beer or sports bars. They have a great wine menu, too, and the atmosphere is quite lively. The portions were good: we barely finished the pizza after sharing the two apps and did not have room for dessert. Also a good place for a group of people. Definitely worth checking out if you're in the area!


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